Quarter of Toronto tenants getting rent breaks

Quarter of Toronto tenants getting rent breaks

By ANTONELLA ARTUSO, Queen’s Park Bureau

http://www.torontosun.com/news/torontoandgta/2010/12/10/16508176.html

Last Updated: December 10, 2010 5:43pm

Almost 130,000 tenant households — about one-quarter of Toronto’s rental units — will shortly get notices advising them of an automatic reduction in their rent.

The City of Toronto will mail out 128,109 notices Monday to tenants who live in buildings where there has been a drop in the assessed market value of the property.

The savings add up to about $144 a year for a tenant paying $1,200 monthly rent in a building where property taxes dropped 5%.

Geordie Dent, executive director of the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations, said the rent reduction is required under Ontario legislation that says when landlords pay less property tax, tenants should get a break too.

Many landlords have been reluctant to accept the rent cut even though it’s the law, he said.

“Our hotline number is put on all of those notices, so we’ve dealt with thousands of these calls over the last year and it’s been a nightmare,” Dent said. “Landlords have been fighting these notices tooth and nail at the Landlord and Tenant Board…even though the tenant really didn’t have anything to do with this.”

Some landlords try to bully tenants out of taking the rent reduction, he said.

Renters have called the hotline saying the property owner told them a mistake has been made or they would be evicted if they took it.

“The far greater thing that we’ve seen is essentially just coercion, harassment and brow beating by landlords, essentially lying to tenants telling them they can’t take it,” he said. “We’ve seen that en masse throughout the year.”

Landlords were notified in September about the rent reductions so they should be aware the tenant is entitled to it, he said.

Last year, more than 128,500 tenants in Toronto were advised they were eligible for the rent cut.

“Tenants of buildings with more than six units generally pay about 20% of their rent toward property taxes, so if taxes go down, they are entitled to reduce their rent by 20% of the reduction,” a 2009 city news release says. “For buildings with six or fewer units, the percentage is 15.”